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Gov’t to impose stringent cybersecurity conditions on 3rd telco player

Move to address concerns on China Telecom’s role
/ 05:16 AM January 02, 2019

Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said the country’s new major telco player—a venture backed by state-owned China Telecom—would be subjected to more stringent cybersecurity requirements to protect against possible threats to national security.

Rio said the DICT was working with multiple government agencies, including the National Security Adviser, to come up with a set of conditions that the new major player, known as Mislatel Consortium, would have to meet.

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The security review comes as Mislatel undergoes its post-qualification stage and as lawmakers call for closer scrutiny on the intentions of China despite warming relations under President Duterte.

Rio told the Inquirer that the cybersecurity requirements for Mislatel would be more than what was sought from incumbents PLDT Inc.’s Smart Communications and Globe Telecom.

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“It will be a degree higher,” Rio said in an interview.

“Globe and Smart also have foreign partners,” Rio added. “But we have no national security issues with them.”

Globe’s strategic partner is Singapore Telecommunications while PLDT has tapped Japan’s NTT Group.

Both Singapore and Japan are aligned with the United States, a historical ally of the Philippines, which was locked in a maritime sovereignty dispute with China before Mr. Duterte came to power in 2016 and pursued a friendlier stance.

Rio declined to outline the specific conditions, but he said there was a need to install monitoring tools on Mislatel’s network.

The DICT is also outsourcing key digital security initiatives in line with its National Cybersecurity Plan.

Last Dec. 13, the department awarded a P508.9-million contract to a venture that included Israel-based Verint System Ltd., according to a document seen by the Inquirer.

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The contract was for the supply of a so-called cybersecurity management system project. This will be used to detect, analyze and respond to digital threats.

“This project will come into operation around the first quarter of 2019,” Rio said.

According to the DICT, the project will include a Cyber Threat Intelligence Platform. Its main purpose is to collect a “variety of threat information to different sources at the web, illegal trading sites and Critical Information Infrastructure sectors such as energy, financial and banking.”

Rio said the cybersecurity management system project would also be used to monitor the network of telco providers, including that of Mislatel.

Mislatel, so-named after franchise holder Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co., is a venture between businessman Dennis A. Uy’s Udenna Corp. and China Telecom. Should it pass the post-qualification stage, it will be awarded a set of radio frequencies to launch mobile services and compete with PLDT and Globe.

The consortium could start providing commercial services in the latter part of 2019, its spokesperson Adel Tamano had said.

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TAGS: dict, Eliseo Rio Jr., Mislatel Consortium, Telecommunications
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